June 27, 2022
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Nursing student wins chancellor’s and president’s excellence awards

Maeve Kelly shines in the community and on campus

Maeve Kelly, a senior nursing student, learned she won the Binghamton University President's Award for Undergraduate Student Excellence while she was getting ready for her clinical placement shift to begin at Ascension Lourdes Hospital. Maeve Kelly, a senior nursing student, learned she won the Binghamton University President's Award for Undergraduate Student Excellence while she was getting ready for her clinical placement shift to begin at Ascension Lourdes Hospital.
Maeve Kelly, a senior nursing student, learned she won the Binghamton University President's Award for Undergraduate Student Excellence while she was getting ready for her clinical placement shift to begin at Ascension Lourdes Hospital. "I was just floating on a cloud that entire clinical shift," she said. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

“Every few years a student comes along who shines with amazing brightness — magnetic, inspirational, unforgettable. That’s Maeve Kelly!”

Maeve Kelly is a senior in the traditional nursing program at Binghamton University’s Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences and a 2022 recipient of a State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and the University’s President’s Award for Undergraduate Student Excellence.

The glowing appraisal? It came from Al Vos, who retired from the University in 2020 after 50 years teaching English at Binghamton. In a letter supporting Kelly’s nomination, Vos added that in his five decades at Binghamton he met only a few students who compare to this 22-year-old from Selkirk, N.Y.

Kelly received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award at a ceremony Apr. 26 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. She was accompanied by her (extremely proud!) parents. The University’s President’s Award will be presented during a luncheon ceremony May 4 on campus.

Kelly’s body of service to the Binghamton community and the University, along with her accomplishments over four years on campus, are why she was selected for these honors.

Highlights of Kelly’s achievements

During her first two years at Binghamton, Kelly lived on campus in the Hinman College Public Service Learning Community (PSLC), a residential community for students who want to make a difference through service-learning courses and volunteering. Vos served as collegiate professor for Hinman from 1998 to 2020.

Kelly began working with the Binghamton Rescue Mission through the PSLC during her first semester. Students cooked and baked for the residents at the mission, as well as organized social events for them.

The following two semesters, Kelly secured grants that funded additional trips to the mission, along with monies to purchase groceries. She planned the meals based on resident requests, shopped for food and coordinated transportation for the students who helped.

“In the beginning there was a sort of disconnect between the college students and the residents, but I’ve always thought that food is a great way to bring people together,” Kelly said. “This was a perfect example because by the time we were sent home for COVID [Binghamton suspended in-person classes during the spring 2020 semester] residents were coming into the kitchen to cook with us, we’d have dance parties in the kitchen and do karaoke nights.

“This experience led to some really amazing friendships and connections, and I feel very privileged to have even had a little bit of a part in making that happen,” she added.

Working with the Binghamton Rescue Mission occupied much of Kelly’s first two years at Binghamton. More recently, she has been volunteering at the NoMa Community Center, a facility that works to improve quality of life and provide recreational and health-based programs for residents who live north of Main Street in Binghamton.

She began going to NoMA on Saturdays during the fall 2020 semester, when the pandemic prohibited her from visiting other organizations with which she had relationships. She typically helps with lunch distribution.

“Helping at NoMa provided me a lot of comfort at an otherwise very distressing time,” she said. “My work there has allowed me to get to know neighbors I didn’t know I had, and has been something I look forward to every week.”

The pandemic also affected Kelly’s participation in the Binghamton University Running Club.

She became co-president of the club two years ago, in the middle of COVID restrictions. Working with co-president Sandra Re the first year and Adam Silhavy the second year, Kelly had to figure out how to keep the club running and the members engaged, as well how to practice and compete safely. Since they were committed to maintaining the club’s traditional events, she and Silhavy also had to adapt them for safety. And had to do all of this without having the benefit of experiencing these events during a normal year.

“There was a lot of trial and error and there was a huge learning curve,” Kelly said. “I’m proud of the way Adam and I were able to figure out how to run a club without either of us having had that lived experience.”

A passion for helping others

Despite being in a particularly rigorous academic program that includes the additional requirement of clinical nursing experiences in several specialty areas, along with volunteering Kelly finds time to work as a student ambassador and peer advisor for Decker College’s Division of Advising and Academic Excellence. She is also completing an internship at the Addiction Center of Broome County.

“Community service often feels a bit like potato chips: You go to grab a few and suddenly the whole bag is gone,” she said. “Once you’re exposed to the need, it’s hard not to stay involved.”

Kelly credits her family for her drive to serve others.

“I have wonderful parents and an amazing brother, and they always prioritized helping those around you, being aware of the community you live in and trying to make your community as good a place to live in as possible,” she said.

Her love of community led Kelly to select community nursing as her future specialty. Although, that wasn’t clear to her in the beginning. Throughout her four-year program, Kelly kept waiting to feel the “spark” her peers and professors spoke of having when they found their area of interest.

“I loved all of my clinical experiences. I thought I wanted to go into pediatrics, but I didn’t really get the feeling that I needed to be there. I thought I might love labor and delivery, but I didn’t feel that pull either,” she said. “I began to wonder how I would know what I want to go into if I didn’t ever feel a spark.”

In fall 2021, her first semester as a senior, Kelly began a clinical experience in community health — finally, her spark!

“I realized that community health is the intersection between what had driven so much of my first two years in the PSLC and the second half, which is more nursing oriented,” she said. “I realized there could be a way to include both of those in a future career.”

Since that experience, Kelly has developed a keen interest in social determinants of health and community health, and secured an internship at the Addiction Center for Broome County.

“I would love to work in addiction recovery, in a substance-use disorder treatment center,” she said.

Following graduation in May, Kelly intends to spend about a month focusing on studying for her National Council Licensure Examination (the exam required to become a registered nurse). But, not one to sit still, she is already reaching out to addiction-recovery centers near her hometown to inquire about future employment.

Long-term, Kelly said she is intrigued by nursing education and thinks teaching community health in a college setting would be interesting. As a result, she intends to pursue an advanced degree in nursing sometime in the future.

For now, however, she said: “We’ll see where life takes me.”

Posted in: Campus News, Decker